Countering the hegemony of the Irish national canon: the modernist rhetoric of Sean O'Faolain (1938-50)

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Abstract

The telling and re-telling of national history has long been recognised in studies of nationalism as one of its key legitimising and mobilising strategies. In this article I illustrate how a rhetorical approach can effectively explore this dynamic and emotive dimension of nationalist ideology by examining the rhetorical strategies in the Irish liberal intellectual, Sean O'Faolain's, attempts to reconstitute the popular canon of Irish history in the 1930s and 1940s. More specifically, I show that contrary to depictions of O'Faolain as a European liberal who employed rational argument to undermine and encourage the rejection of Irish nationalism and its emphasis on rhetorical narratives of the past, O'Faolain's challenge to the Irish national canon reveals that he himself mobilised historical narrative to promote his own modernist version of Irish liberal nationalism and demonstrated in the process that he was one of the most skilful rhetors of his day.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-544
JournalNATIONS AND NATIONALISM
Volume15
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • history
  • ideology
  • Ireland
  • nationalism
  • O'Faolain
  • rhetoric

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